I needed to make a fence for my new dog. Lady has
the dangerous habit of roaming about the busy county road that we live on. I
love my dog, but I'm also cheap. I thought I could get by with spending a few
hundred bucks on an electronic fence, but then I figured it wasn't in the
budget, so I was forced to build one myself. I decided a picket fence was the
way to go.
I saved tons of money
building this fence by using salvaged lumber and cutting 6-ft. pickets in half.
I don't consider myself a packrat, but I hate to
throw away stuff that is still useful. I have the good fortune to own a little
land and couple of outbuildings, which allows me to squirrel away surplus materials.
I was a general contractor for many years and have gathered quite a collection.
A few years ago, I salvaged a bunch of the cedar boards from a deck we
demolished. The eight 4x4 cedar posts and more than 20 cedar 2x4s were almost
enough for the entire structural portion of my new fence.
The boards needed a little cleaning up before they
could be used. After checking every board for nails and screws using my metal
detector, I ran them all through my surface planer. One side of every board was
painted. I planed that side last, thinking the paint would gum up my planer knives,
and I was right. I ended up with almost $300 of lumber that only cost me a few
hours of work, plus a $50 set of knives—not bad.
I couldn't find pickets smaller than 6 ft. to
buy, but I didn't need or want a fence that high anyway. After I gave it some
thought, my cheapskate gene kicked in, and I decided to buy 6-ft. gothic
pickets for $1.50 each and cut them in two. I bought 120 pickets and cut them
so that I ended up with 32-in. square-end pickets and 40-in. gothic-top pickets,
120 of each type.
I staggered the pickets every other one and held
the fence a few inches off the ground to make grass trimming easier, so the
fence is effectively more than 43 in. tall. Lady is a small golden retriever. I'm
pretty sure she's capable of jumping 43 in. high, but I also know she's not
The whole fence ended up costing me $40 for four
extra posts, $180 for 120 pickets, $60 for hardware and $40 for child labor.
That's a grand total of $440, a fraction of what the fence companies wanted to
charge and only $100 more than an invisible fence would have cost me. Now I just
have to find some cheap paint.
— Mark Petersen, Contributing Editor
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